SOFTBALL

Awaiting the next challenge

Kyle Riviere @kyleR_sports
The Lady Griffins await Jessica Crum after she hit a homer against Ponchatoula in Dutchtown's opening-round win. Photo by Dewey Keller.

For St. Amant and Dutchtown, it's two down, three to go.

They've flexed their muscles early and cruised to easy first and second-round wins, but now things really get interesting.

They've punched their tickets to the State Softball Tournament in Sulphur where they'll join six other hungry teams vying for a championship, and only three wins separate them from the title.

The No. 2 St. Amant Lady Gators justified their high ranking in the first two rounds.

In the bi-district game, they dispatched of No. 31 Lafayette in five innings with a 14-0 drubbing.

They got most of those runs in the second when they unleashed an eight-run blitzkrieg.

Kasey Nielson and Skylar Cook combined to throw a one-hitter with Nielson getting the overall win.

From the plate, Kayla Braud, Jaci Lavigne and Kristen Despino all had home runs. Braud and Lavigne both went 2-3 with three RBIs, and Despino was a perfect 3-3 with three runs batted in.

St. Amant's second-round game wasn't much more of a challenge as they met No. 18 seed Airline--who was an upset winner over Denham Springs in the bi-district game.

Despite having to make the long trip to Bossier City, the Lady Gators took care of business--shutting out the Lady Vikings 8-0.

Though, St. Amant did get out to a sluggish start. Whether it was the long trip or just great pitching by Airline's Jamie Roberts, the Lady Gators didn't get their first run until the third and only led 2-0 heading into the fifth.

It was there that the St. Amant offense finally began to open up as they cashed in two runs to go up 4-0 and in the sixth, they officially put the game away as they exploded for four.

Nielson looked sharp once again from the mound as she pitched a complete-game shutout. She struck out seven and only gave up one hit in the process.

She also did damage from the plate as she went 2-4 with a homer and three RBIs. Despino flaunted her power once again as she also went yard on a 2-4 effort.

The victory ran the Lady Gators' consecutive win mark up to 26. Most importantly, it put them through to Sulphur for the State Softball Tournament.

For the quarterfinal round, they'll meet No. 10 Parkway on Friday--a team that went 19-8 during the regular season and crushed No. 7 Walker 10-3 in regionals.

Joining St. Amant and Parkway in Sulphur will be the sixth-seeded Lady Griffins.

Their journey to the tournament started with an 11-1 thrashing of No. 27 Ponchatoula in the opening round. From there, they drew a regional matchup with No. 22 H.L. Bourgeois after their first-round upset of No. 11 Ouachita Parish.

Because of the surprise, higher-seeded Dutchtown was forced to make the long travel to Gray to face the Lady Braves.

The game remained close early.

The Lady Griffins finally took a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI-single by Royelle Cobb. And in the third, Dutchtown extended the lead to 3-0 with Aleah Craighton hitting an RBI-triple and Jessica Crum following with an RBI-double.

Finally, Hope Vezinat put the Lady Griffins up comfortably 5-0 in the fifth when she cranked out a two RBI-single.

H.L. Bourgeois got a run in the bottom of the inning, but that's all they were able to muster. Dutchtown closed out the win 5-1.

Craighton and Ali McCoy combined to throw a three-hitter. Craighton got credit for the win with four and 2/3 innings of work.

From the plate, Vezinat led the way--going 2-4 with two RBIs, and Crum was also 2-4 with one RBI.

The victory pushed the Lady Griffins on to Sulphur for the quarterfinals where they'll meet the defending state champions in No. 19 Sam Houston.

The Lady Broncos went 16-9 during the regular season and pulled a 2-0 upset over No. 3 West Monroe in the regionals. They now have their sights set on upending Dutchtown's run.

The Lady Griffins actually met Sam Houston in Sulphur back in March for a tournament. Dutchtown won that one easily 14-4.

They'll try to get the same kind of result on Friday. If they and the Lady Gators can both win, it'll set up an all-Ascension showdown in the semifinal game on Saturday.